On the 70th anniversary of San Francisco noncommercial station KALW 91.7, writer Ben Fong-Torres visited the station, which is housed in converted classrooms in John and Sala Burton High School.

    The facilities and equipment are so modest that David Sedaris, stopping by on a book tour, did a video tour of KALW, calling it a ‘dump.’ But to the station’s staff, it’s their dump, and it’s part of history. 
    KALW was San Francisco’s first licensed FM station. In 1954, its studios, then in the Gompers Trade School in the Mission, served as the first home of KQED-TV. 
    Originally established as a radio school in the fall of 1941, KALW moved away from teaching in 1971, and soon became the first San Francisco affiliate of National Public Radio and the first local station to air such programs as ‘All Things Considered’ and ‘Fresh Air.’”

Station manager Matt Martin told Fong-Torres that 9% of the station’s budget comes from the federal government through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which conservatives in Congress have been threatening to de-fund. Martin said that losing those funds would have a serious effect on the station, but “I think this community would step forward and make up for that. This is a great place to be public broadcasters.”

KALW general manager Matt Martin (right) with reporters Rina Palta (left) and Erica Mu. Photo by Ben Fong-Torres, via the Chronicle.

Bay Area Media News


  1. Another reason to be pro-choice and for education rights. Does the "fairness doctrine" apply to this station, which is a little league version of KPFA?

  2. Ben Fong-Torres did not mention KALW's bold experiment to trust it's listeners' intelligence and generosity by dropping those truly irritating pledge drives that cut into programming at most public stations.

    Also, KQED's "all news and information" is highly dependent on outside feeds from the BBC.

    Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, I have been seeking intelligent alternatives to the propaganda machine that has tried to justify the lies and more lies.

    I have yet to find one (even at KPFA), but think on occasion that KALW has come closest. It is a blessing, perhaps, to be smaller, more independent– and courageous!

    I recall listening to the English Service of Radio Taiwan when Taiwan was striving to break its dictatorship in the early 90s. It was so exciting to hear the occasional candor of some of the commentators who were virtually ignored by their radio parent.

    (I so long for candor and truth in radio.)

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